Source: Sports Business Daily
ESPN in a shocking turn of events will go all-in on the UFC, taking the entire package from Fox Sports, which has carried it since '11. The deal goes into effect in January. Sources said that ESPN outbid Fox Sports for the UFC rights, agreeing to pay a total of $1.5B over five years for the entire package -- a figure that includes the previously announced $150M-per-year deal with ESPN+, sources said. For months, Fox Sports was considered a prohibitive front-runner to retain the rights. But ESPN, under the direction of new President Jimmy Pitaro, showed a newfound interest in the property. Pitaro showered praise on the MMA space at the Sports Business Summit in N.Y. on Monday, describing the UFC as an ascendant property and touting its young and diverse demos.
Fox Sports execs late last week told Endeavor execs that they were walking away from the UFC, ending a seven-year relationship and clearing the way for ESPN to pick up the entire package, sources said. Fox was the first broadcast TV channel to show UFC events in '11. But soon after Fox Sports cut a five-year, $205M-per-year deal for the WWE’s “SmackDown Live” last week, Fox backed out of UFC talks, partly because the package’s price tag started to rise higher than Fox was willing to pay. Fox’ deal for “SmackDown” has not been announced officially, though sources said it is finalized.
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